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Publication #ENH-808

Ulmus crassifolia: Cedar Elm1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


Cedar elm is a native North American deciduous tree which reaches 50 to 90 feet in height with a spread of 40 to 60 feet and forms a rounded silhouette. Trees 118 feet tall have been documented in the wild. The stiff and rough-textured, dark green leaves fade to bright yellow to red/brown before dropping in fall. The inconspicuous, green, summertime flowers are followed by the production of winged seeds in late summer or early fall.

Figure 1. 

Mature Ulmus crassifolia: cedar elm


Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Ulmus crassifolia
Pronunciation: UL-mus krass-ih-FOLE-ee-uh
Common name(s): Cedar elm
Family: Ulmaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 6A through 9B (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: reclamation; shade; street without sidewalk; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 50 to 70 feet
Spread: 40 to 60 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: vase, round
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate, double serrate, crenate
Leaf shape: obovate, elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: yellow
Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Flower color: green
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch, 1 to 3 inches
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: green
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: susceptible to breakage
Current year twig color: brown, gray
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun, or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; extended flooding; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate


Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: susceptible
Pest resistance: sensitive to pests/diseases

Use and Management

It would be a low maintenance shade and street tree except for its thin, somewhat drooping branches which are somewhat susceptible to breakage at the crotches of major limbs. Some of this could be avoided by maintaining a regular pruning and training program in the early years after transplanting. Strive to keep branches no larger than about two-thirds the diameter of the trunk. Cedar elm has been used extensively (almost exclusively in some local areas) in Texas as a street tree for many years due to its adaptability to wet, poor soil conditions. However, it is always best to diversify the tree species in an area so that if a major problem arises on one species, it will only effect a portion of the tree population in the community.

Cedar elm should be grown in full sun on well-drained soil, acid, or alkaline. It is very drought-tolerant once established and tolerates wet soil well. However, mistletoe can engulf the tree leading to its demise.

Propagation is by seed.


Elm leaf beetles can feed on foliage. Aphids can also drop copious amounts of honey dew beneath the canopy.


Dutch elm disease kills trees. Powdery mildew can be a problem in some years.



This document is ENH-808, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; and Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.